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The Laboratory

The Laboratory


by Robert Browning

Stanza 9 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 33-34

For only last night, as they whispered, I brought
My own eyes to bear on her so, that I thought

  • Suddenly her mind races back to the night before, when she watched her lover whisper with his new girlfriend. She remembers staring at this other woman. 
  • Now, she's clearly over the top, but we'd bet that anyone who's ever been dumped for someone else knows this feeling of watching your ex at a party talking to the new person. Now, we wouldn't go so far as to poison anyone, but we can understand why it might sting.

Line 35

Could I keep them one half minute fixed, she would fall,

  • She remembers that she glared at this other woman so hard that she thought she could kill her in thirty seconds, just with a stare. That's some powerful hate, folks.

Line 36

Shrivelled; she fell not; yet this does it all! 

  • Huh. Seems like this death-by-staring thing didn't actually work. It didn't shrivel up the lady's rival in half a minute. The good news (for her) is: she's pretty sure this poison will do the trick.

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